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Back from the park, now at RFK

So I didn't have time to stick around for the complete tour (I go down there every two weeks and check it out), and I'm now back at RFK. Some impressions:

Stan Kasten did the speaking when I was around (shocker), and he was fairly interesting about the high-priced club seats that are behind the plate. Basically, he was straight-forward: They cost a lot. We need rich people to buy them. Middle-income people can't afford them. But if we sell them out, then we can keep other tickets more reasonably priced.

Here's a sample:

"We worked very, very hard both to maximize revenue and to keep everyone at the same time - whoever our customers are, including those budget-minded people - able to access the facility. So wehreas at RFK, we had a season-ticket range that started from 5 bucks to 50 bucks, you can buy season tickets next year in a range from 10 bucks to 60 bucks. A lot of changes in between there, but we absolutely made a point of having affordable pricing."

And some more, specifically on the business of premium seating:

Premium business: "It's not a business that we've been in until now. We haven't had premium seats. We haven't had clubs. We haven't had suites. All my competitors have had them. So we're going to need that business. Sponsorships - another business that we really didn't have at RFK that we will have next year. And keep in mind, we all want to do as well as we can. We want to make the most money we can. We want to have as many customers there. We want to make the stadium as good as it can be, which costs money. And we want to have the best team we can have, which costs money. And we want to do all of this while also keeping our game affordable.

"Well, bear in mind, it's the money that comes from those upscale customers, from the upscale businesses, that really helps us, that really enables us to keep the low-end ticket prices that we want so desperately as well. So all of those people who asked about the high-end pricing, [those customers] are getting great service, but they're also providing a great service for Joe Fan."

There are 900 "premium" seats at RFK. There will be 500 $300 seats at the new park, and 1,300 $150 seats there. That's twice as many high-end, revenue-generating seats.

Kasten will, of course, focus on the fact that there are 3,000 seats available for $5 or $10 to every game. He'll focus on the fact that there are season tickets in the lower level -- where there are 24,000 seats -- for $25, which they don't have at RFK. But the real scrutiny will come from the mid-level folks, people who are paying $50 per game now and will go up to $60, or -- like those in my seats, the 300 level -- who are paying like $34 a seat and could go up to $50 or so, depending on where you end up.

The relocation process: Kasten warned that it will take some time. They don't want to screw it up. We're nine months from next season.

Thomas Heath will have a full report in tomorrow's paper. We'll run a graphic. We'll compare the pricing to other ballparks in other cities. Etc.

Baseball: John Patterson throwing what looks to be a simulated game right now, complete with hitters in the box. Randy St. Claire watching carefully. Jesus Flores just ripped a ball to the left-center gap. We'll see how Patterson felt later.

Lineup:

No real surprises here:

Lopez -- 4
Guzman -- 6
Zimmerman -- 5
Young -- 3
Kearns -- 9
Church -- 7
Schneider -- 2
Logan -- 8
Bowie -- 1

Continue the discussion. You can also click on the Web story I wrote on washingtonpost.com/sports. It should be up shortly.

By Barry Svrluga  |  June 6, 2007; 3:03 PM ET
 
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Next: Patterson update

Comments

Well, at least 'Stan the Plan' was honest. The best seats are not meant for the average fan.

Posted by: swanni | June 6, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

OK, enough about the price of the seats. What I really want to know is this ... will the new stadium have more than one diaper changing table in the enite upper deck as RFK has? It is an absolute pain carrying an infant halfway across the stadium just to change a poopy diaper.

and speaking of poopy ... what's with the starting pitching lately? seems that the opposition now has more than enough video of our fill-in's so that they can properly scout all of their flaws. here's hoping that JPat, Hill and Bergmann come back 100% healthy and soon!

Posted by: e | June 6, 2007 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Barry, could you please let us know which draft prospects are there this afternoon?

Posted by: Brian | June 6, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

To my snort about "effort and commitment" in the previous thread, NatsNut responds: "What, besides effort and commitment, CAN they give you at this point?"

A sound long-term strategy for doing something besides flinging money at pricey free agents. In other words, the building of foundations especially at the minor league level, to provide a continuum of hope and faith and a visible return on the investments made by the city and the season ticketholders.

The Nats are making some strides in this direction; granted, it's early days. Ten years from now, if the player personnel organization were in the tattered state of today's Pirates or Redskins (and I'm tempted to add the Caps to that mix), Swanni would be vindicated and the snorts from his corner and mine would be frequent, pointed, and justified. Let's hope it never comes to that.

Posted by: Hendo | June 6, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

amen to that, Hendo.

Posted by: swanni | June 6, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Barry, Thanks for the updaate on Patterson. Please don't forget to let us know how he feels later.

Posted by: gilsfan | June 6, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Barry, Thanks for the update on Patterson. Please don't forget to let us know how he feels later.

Posted by: gilsfan | June 6, 2007 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I see what Stan is saying and agree with him to some extent, but what does the ballpark *look* like from those cheap seats? Do we get garbage to make us want more expensive ones, or can we still get a quality experience of the game as one might in Section 506 of RFK (after moving).

Posted by: Section 506 (After moving) | June 6, 2007 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Or in Section 502. Of course, I've already put down my deposit on tickets for 2008.

(And I still think Swanni is actually the Randy Quaid character from "Major League")

Posted by: Section 502 | June 6, 2007 4:16 PM | Report abuse

e: Where is that one diaper changing station? I might bring my little one to the game tomorrow and we will be sitting in the upper deck.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | June 6, 2007 4:16 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate Kasten's candor at least.

Another poster had a question a few days back that I have as well: How exactly is a simulated game done?

Posted by: NatsNut | June 6, 2007 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Looks like I'll be getting the 20-game plan in the 400-level nosebleed seats along the Left Field line, which looks like the only place that will have shade, even during day games.

Posted by: Juan-John | June 6, 2007 4:26 PM | Report abuse

MLB went the VIP/lobbyist route in 2005 when it set aside the best seats for the likes of Robert Novak and George Will. The team paid for that mistake in 2006 and 2007 with alienated fans staying away and the lobbyists running out of tax loophole money.

Go ahead, Stan the Plan, make the same mistake twice and see what happens to what's left of your fan base.

Posted by: swanni | June 6, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Barry,
I haven't seen this one answered yet by you or the team's relocation guide novella, so I'll throw it out for you:
No complaints about the prices from me; plenty of $10 and $17 tickets available, and I really didn't expect to be able to get $5 season tickets once the new stadium opened like I can at RFK.
BUT, if I submit my renewal and don't get tickets in one of those $10 sections because my priority isn't good enough or whatever, am I stuck with either buying the $17 seats they assign me or losing my deposit?
Like I said, I'm not upset about the prices at all, but for those of us on a budget, the difference between a total of $200 per seat for the season and $340 is pretty huge and I don't want to get stuck with a bigger bill then expected some time this winter.
Could you ask Kasten (or whoever) about this? Thanks much!

Posted by: andrew | June 6, 2007 4:39 PM | Report abuse

I still think the $300 non-refundable deposit per seat is excessive. After Kasten noted that "it will take a long time" to complete the relocation, the team should have charged less of a deposit (or charge it on a per-account instead of a per-seat basis), and should consider paying interest to the fans over the 9 months they will be holding our money without delivering any product on those funds. I know, pipe dream stuff, but it's tough to come up with another business that takes that much money for product so far in advance of any real delivery.

Thanks Barry for continuing to raise the issue of how we Section 300s folks seem to be the most left out of the relocation scenario. By and large, we're the most likely to end up with considerably worse seats for considerably more money.

Posted by: Sec 315(2) | June 6, 2007 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Swanni: cry me a river.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 6, 2007 4:39 PM | Report abuse

section 315, you're right on the money. The 300 Section crowd is getting screwed.

Posted by: swanni | June 6, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse

People are making lots of assumptions about "worse seats". Granted, it's really hard to tell. But for all we know, "worse" seats (read: cheaper or seemingly further away) at the Nationals Park might actually have better sightlines and better or different bennies than you got at RFK (i.e. closer to a better exit, closer to the field itself). It just might not be as bad as it seems right now.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 6, 2007 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Stan said:
"Basically, he was straight-forward: They cost a lot. We need rich people to buy them. Middle-income people can't afford them. But if we sell them out, then we can keep other tickets more reasonably priced."

... one need look no further for a damning indictment of the real effects of today's current economic iunequality and income disparity now rampant in most of the First World. It was never more true that the rich get richer and the poor get the dregs.

... when such things for the masses - popular parts of community life like as sports and entertainment (in this case, baseball) - succumb to its effects, and all facets of society mirror the widening gap, it's easy to see how this disparity hits real people where they live.

... also, a very disconcerting admission that he/they have not faced such things as suites and clubs in the past. It makes one wonder what they thought about when they entered into this fray.

... and now back to the game. Great news to hear that John P. is up and throwing - not tossing, but throwing.

Posted by: natscan reduxit | June 6, 2007 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Diaper Changing Station at RFK:

Mr. Randy St. Claire
Office of Alchemy and Ecological Sanitation
Washington Nationals Baseball Club
RFK Stadium Gate F
2400 East Capitol Street SE
Washington DC 20003


Seriously, from http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/ballpark/guide.jsp#b

Baby Changing stations are located inside the following restrooms:

200 Level
Men's Sect. 209
Women's Sect. 210
Women's Sect. 203

300 Level
Men's Sect. 302
Women's Sect. 301
Women's Sect. 306

400 Level
Men's Sect. 401
Women's Sect. 402
Women's Sect. 405

500 Level
Men's Sect. 502
Women's Sect. 501
Women's Sect. 507

Posted by: BrianH | June 6, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Section 315(2) wrote: "...and should consider paying interest to the fans over the 9 months they will be holding our money without delivering any product on those funds."

It should be noted that's what the Washington Capitals (my other season ticket indulgence) did for season ticket holders during the NHL lockout that killed an entire season. After play resumed, the interest could either be applied to the following season's tickets or you could get a check from the Caps. Maybe Ted Leonsis can give the Nats a call?

Posted by: Section 502 | June 6, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Natscan, interesting observations.

Some would interpret the problem as too much capitalism. My take is that there are not enough capitalists. Concentrated wealth, like a pool with no source or outlet, stagnates and distorts its environment.

The impact on MLB could, in a worst-case scenario, become very close to what I am beginning to see happen in the NHL: an epidemic of overexpansion and oversaturation that I can see leading to failure for a number of franchises and the implosion of the league. (If you doubt it, recall the the NHL's "Original Six" were the survivors of contraction in the years surrounding the Great Depression.)

You think Park Avenue's going to change things any time soon? Me neither. Winfield for Commissioner. End of rant.

See you tonight at RFK.

Posted by: Hendo | June 6, 2007 5:05 PM | Report abuse

BrianH, thanks for the listing of the diaper changing stations. However:

400 Level
Men's Sect. 401

500 Level
Men's Sect. 502

these bathrooms are one in the same. hence, only one changing station in the upper deck. this bathroom is down the right-field line. heaven forbid your seats are down the third base line ...

Posted by: e | June 6, 2007 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Shut your piehole swanni. There's cheap baseball in Potomac on Monday nights.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 6, 2007 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Still, ya'll. Prices and locations aside, isn't it so exciting to have tangibles like this on the new stadium already?
Remembering the chaos of 2004 and early 2005, it's amazing it's come this far: construction is actually on schedule, and we already have seating categories and prices to actually choose from? The Nats staff HAD to have been working their tails off to get this seating business arranged so early.
And the players must be STOKED. Especially Schneider, who will likely be the sole player standing from the Puerto Rico days. (Barry, keep that in mind for future stories).
At any rate I'M getting a little giddy about the new stadium. Opening Day is going to be AWESOME!

Posted by: NatsNut aka Pollyana | June 6, 2007 5:12 PM | Report abuse

It's cheap in Potomac because they won't buy sunflower seeds for them.

Posted by: swanni | June 6, 2007 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Okay, gang, there's something important to know: "Potomac" is not a place (in Virginia). The high-A affiliate is in Prince William County and was always the Prince William Cannons until the owner decided he wanted a new stadium and threatened the Board of Supervisors with moving the team to Fairfax. He switched it to "Potomac" so that he had freedom to shop around. When the Nats bought them they finally dropped Cannons for "Nationals" and are still threatening to move.

If you want to snidely tell swanni off, please tell him to go to games in Prince William County or Woodbridge (though it's not really in Woodbridge).

I grew up down the street from Cannons games and they rock. Perfect for kids to learn how the game is played, because you can show them mistakes, see a star every now and then, witness obscure events like stealing first. Plus it's exciting, because there are no "routine" plays.

Posted by: Section 506 (After moving) | June 6, 2007 5:33 PM | Report abuse

There are sunflower seeds at bowie. And cheap seats behind home plate. And poopy-cleaning tables. And free bats for ballplayers. And free parking.

For our sake PLEASE go there and stop whining. It's a new ballpark. Did you expect lower prices? Of the 20-odd new major-league ballparks that have been opened in the last 15 years, could you tell me which of those don't have really expensive seats behind home plate?

Posted by: Sunflower seeds | June 6, 2007 5:42 PM | Report abuse

506 - you're right. Pfitzner(sp?) isn't a bad place. However, it's tough to get there if you don't live there. There's the 95 traffic and then that looong stretch through the burbs to get to the park. Has anyone heard anything about a possible new park for them?

Posted by: P-Nats | June 6, 2007 5:47 PM | Report abuse

The biggest reason there won't be a new park in Prince William is because the county doesn't have the money. They don't have the money for education and roads, either, which is why the ballpark simply isn't going to happen. But there's still a big push and they've spent their money on dumber things in the past, so who knows. The Post wrote an article on this a few months ago, but maybe St. Barry can ask when he does his next "down on the farm" notebook?

Posted by: Section 506 (After moving) | June 6, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Sec. 506--
Potomac, Virginia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potomac%2C_Virginia
I'm so totally not taking myself seriously, just thought it was interesting!

And this is just me, but I totally respect Swanni's right to gripe about the team. God knows that in this town, it's a tradition. But I kind of had to agree with whomever mentioned making the point and then moving on. Want to hold feet to the fire, fine. The constant harping, however, doesn't seem conducive to anything, let alone affecting change. Mmmk, good talk.

Posted by: Atlanta | June 6, 2007 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Hi Hendo,

... would love to debate socialism vs. capitalism over a few 'community-minded' beers some time, but alas, geography has gotten in the way.

... and anyway, this discussion is for baseball nuts and gnats. So it's off with their heads and on with the game. Go Johnny Pat; go Dmitri and Guz; GO NATS!

Posted by: natscan reduxit | June 6, 2007 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the info, looks like we'll be sitting on the 1st base side tomorrow. (I'll find a nice spot where Mrs. Powerboater doesn't have to walk too far.)

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | June 6, 2007 9:38 PM | Report abuse

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